Symbols in the cemetery

Cemetery Attractions

Symbols bear a great significance in Jewish art, which are manifested in the Jewish cemetery of Szeged, having numerous richly decorated tombstones, representing different artistic styles of distinctive eras. In certain cases, the form of the tombstone itself is a symbol. These symbols as well as the epitaphs based on old traditions serve an important basis of information about the deceased person, Jewish religion and the Jews of Szeged.

Since the Bible forbids any figurative imagery, in line with this religious obligation, no statues or photos can be found in Jewish cemeteries. It is remarkable; however, that contrary to this rule, portrayal of human figures can be found in the parcels of 19th century tombs, being a sign of assimilation and the influence of mainstream society. Besides these figurative portrayals, we can find religious symbolism on the gravestones such as a menorah, a Star of David, two hands with ringers outspread in the middle: the symbol of the Cohanites, Aaron’s descendants, a jug referring to Levite families, descendants of the tribe of Levi, a crown symbolizing glorious life and the Tables of the Law of Moses. Numerous engraved animal and plant figures also appear on tombstones such as a lion referring to the name of Judah, a deer (Zvi = Hebrew name), a palm (straight character) a willow (mourning), a wreath of laurel, willow and flowers, a butterfly, a dove and an owl. A broken flower or rosebud refers to the young age of the deceased. A tea light stands for sudden death. Profession of the deceased person is often signed with symbols, such as the serpent referring to a medical doctor, a hemp standing for a rope maker, a pen that refers to a writer, a lira standing for a cantor and a pair of compasses or a ruler standing for an engineer. Common features of Jewish gravestones are the eight-pointed star signalling birthdate, two rings symbolizing marriage and a poppy head standing for death and mourning.